Lotus Elan

Taking the collapsable steering column apart

PostPost by: alaric » Tue Apr 21, 2009 2:42 pm

Hi all. Further to my post re the radiator, here's the one asking about the steering column. Mine's the collapsable type, and is sitting on the bench at the end of my garage. Looking in the workshop manual, I should be able to pull the inner upper column straight out of the outer column once I've taken off the clamp that holds the two halves of the inner column together. Mine goes a few inches then stops. I've not used brute force and ignorance yet, so it's not damaged at the moment. Is there anything that I should be releasing / taking off that's not mentioned in the manual? It's probably just a case of wiggling it until it pops out, but I have been known to break things in the past so thought I'd ask first for a change.

Thanks in advance.

All the best.

Sean.
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PostPost by: peterako » Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:14 pm

Hi Sean,

Once the clamp is removed it should just slide out.

It may need some twisting from side to side, WD40...screaming etc.

It is also possible that the joint os slightly bent.

Aside.....My collapsible steering column broke at this joint (in front of our then Taoiseach/Prime Minister).....worryingly it is not an unknown with this (Triumph) column :shock: (To break....not necessarily in front of a member of government)
Stress cracks can build up especially if the column is not straight....

Best of luck,
Peter
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PostPost by: Craig Elliott » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:41 pm

If I recall correctly, there is a clip that goes around the upper end of the steering column that forms a cam that cancels (occasionally) the indicators. This could be stopping the column from pulling out.

I also echo Peter's comment - I've had a steering column snap where the inner is clamped to the outer. This looked like a stress fracture (see pics) and it happened while pulling away from a kerb - thankfully not when trying to turn right across a two lane road! It's worth checking carefully while you have it apart. As to what caused the break, I'm not certain. I know the car had a front end crash in the early 80's but if this initiated the fracture the break would surely have some rust on the edges. The only other thing that could possibly have caused the problem is a lack of alignment of the column brackets resulting in a sideways force on it...

Good luck!

Craig
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PostPost by: alaric » Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:39 pm

Thanks chaps. I did remember the post about the inner breaking which is partly why I'm taking it apart. I wasn't sure where they broke so the pics and explanations are very helpful. There's evidence that mine's been apart before but it looks like it's in good condition otherwise. The inner moves easily up and down the outer and I can rotate it easily, so as a simple first test I reckon it's passed that. I'm going to try some magnets and iron filings to see if I can find any cracks. Not sure how sensitive this'll be though.

So this is another single point of failure that could wipe out the car and me! So far I have the o ring in the brake master cylinder, which with a little bit of grit under it will leave me with no brakes, and the break at any time you like steering column.

There must be the makings of a lethal failure thread in this, but we're at risk of making ourselves too scared to drive the cars.

All the best.

Sean.
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PostPost by: peterako » Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:10 am

I changed my column to a non collapsible one for peace of mind :shock:

At least I don't have to worry about the column breaking again.

Being impaled...well....... :(

Peter
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PostPost by: paddy » Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:49 am

Looking at previous posts it sounds like the failures people have reported have all fortunately been from turning the wheel when stationary when the load is highest.

Its surprising that the same part was used on the Vitesse/Herald etc, which must be at least twice the weight of the Elan, where the loads would be considerably more. Wouldn't it be failing all the time on those cars?

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PostPost by: peterako » Wed Apr 22, 2009 11:37 am

When I reported my steering column breakage (elan-f15/embarassed-but-alive-t14676.html) I got a number of replies (both here and in Ireland) that it was a 'known' issue with some Triumphs.

Hmmm....
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PostPost by: paddy » Wed Apr 22, 2009 11:54 am

On that topic, I'd been looking for a replacement upper steering column because mine is very worn at the upper column bush so there is a bit of play even with new bushes. I'd been looking for a secondhand one in good condition but I hadn't imagined they were available new. Did you get the replacement at S Miller?

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PostPost by: alaric » Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:33 pm

Hi again. I've been mulling this over. Is it possible that the weakness appears when the overlap of the two parts is not suffucient. If the rod is pushed well into the tube, then the cut away section will presumably not be flexed. If the failures have occured at that point even with the rod pushed in well beyond the cut out, then that's a pretty scary design flaw. The manual says the clamp should be at mid travel in the cut out. I was just wondering whether it could be happening when the steering column has been out and the clamp position adjusted for some reason. I just checked mine, and there are two marks where it's been done up in the past, about an inch apart, with the closest about 1.5 inches up from the mid travel point, meaning the rod could be pushed another 1.5 inches in to meet the design. I'm guessing it's used as a fine adjustment to fit to the column to bulkhead clamp positions, and I guess it wasn't designed to be.

Looks like this set up only gives a few inches of travel in the event of an accident. Presumably this is critical for lots of shunts where the front wheel is pushed back taking the rack with it.

Sean.
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PostPost by: alaric » Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:49 pm

Actually, looking at the pics in Craig's post, it looks to me like the wear pattern inside the tube suggests the inner was only just pushed into the tube. Also, on the outside of the tube is that a wear pattern where it's been fouling against the handbreak cable or even the inner wing? I've been looking at this in the garage trying to work out how to keep the steering and handbreak cable apart. I think a cut out and reinforcement of the inner wing with a rubber lined P clamp will do the job.

All the best.

Sean.
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PostPost by: ppnelan » Wed Apr 22, 2009 9:27 pm

paddy wrote:On that topic, I'd been looking for a replacement upper steering column because mine is very worn at the upper column bush so there is a bit of play even with new bushes.

Paddy, it might be mostly/partly to do with the new bushes - check the fit (when installed in the outer column) on an unworn part of the column shaft. I have similar problems and, er, make use of PVC tape on the column shaft to eliminate play... :shock:

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PostPost by: paddy » Wed Apr 22, 2009 9:35 pm

Yes, I was tempted to do that. The new bushes are a good fit on the unworn part of the shaft.

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PostPost by: davidj » Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:08 pm

Wow, this is serious! I don't think alignment would cause such a catastrophic failure but I will stand being corrected. I wonder if it is people applying their body weight on the wheel when getting in the car? This will apply a significant bending moment right at that joint. The column is not supported very near the steering wheel which will make the matter worse.

David
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PostPost by: paddy » Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:29 pm

I guess bending loads won't be helping, but I'd imagined it was mainly down to torsional loads, bearing in mind that the notch for the clamp has very sharp corners which are ripe for fracture formation. If the clamp is slightly loose, then all of the force will be directed at that site rather than being transmitted to the whole tube by the friction between clamp and tube.

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PostPost by: peterako » Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:28 pm

paddy wrote:On that topic, I'd been looking for a replacement upper steering column because mine is very worn at the upper column bush so there is a bit of play even with new bushes. I'd been looking for a secondhand one in good condition but I hadn't imagined they were available new. Did you get the replacement at S Miller?

Paddy


Just in case this was directed at me...

I tried Sue, but she didn't have any at the time.

In any case, there would be no guarantee with a second hand one that it's not about to go too :(

In the end I got the solid steering column from eBay.

I did get replacement bushes from Sue.

Take care,
Peter
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